Kandziora focuses on banking needs of women

Kandziora focuses on banking needs of women

By KeleMarie Lyons, for SBT

For many years, Pat Kandziora has been on a mission to build a banking program focused entirely on the needs of women — all women — from all walks of life: single, married, professionals, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms and students.
Kandziora, a graduate of Mount Mary College with more than 25 years of banking and related experience, is the vice president of small business banking and banking for women at Associated Bank in Milwaukee.
Having built a solid clientele through community involvement, networking and relationships, Kandziora found that women are at a disadvantage when it comes to banking.
"Many women aren’t comfortable with numbers," Kandziora says. "Whether it’s an income statement, balance sheet or a statement of personal net worth."
Kandziora says her own experience, including the need to support her family, had a significant impact on her passion to bring attention to the specialized banking focus.
"People think I was born a vice president of a bank," says Kandziora.
Having started her career as a secretary, Kandziora was motivated to do more. She attended night school and graduated with honors from Mount Mary College.
"Education changed my life. I was always an assistant to a president, helping them succeed. Now it was time for me to make my own way," she says.
And she has made her own way. While at First Bank (now US Bank), she was promoted seven times in nine years. It was there, nearly 10 years ago, where she, David Baumgarten (former First Bank president) and Laura Strain (former First Bank senior vice president of marketing) first discussed the idea of putting a woman’s banking program in place.
"It simply didn’t work at that time, due to major changes in the organizational structure of First Bank," adds Kandziora.
Six years ago, Greg Larson, senior vice president of Associated Bank, recruited Kandziora to join the Associated team, which includes Baumgarten as president of the bank’s 54 southeastern locations.
Kandziora agreed to join the team to develop new business in the areas of private banking and small-business lending.
"This is somewhat unique. A banker usually does one or the other," she recalls.
It wasn’t until last year that Baumgarten walked into her office and said it was time to try it – a "banking for women" program.
"I think the timing is right," Baumgarten says. "Obviously, there are more women in business today than ever before. There’s a lot of potential."
Together, Baumgarten, senior vice president Michael Fleming and Kandziora laid the groundwork for the program. Kandziora framed a business plan to include regular workshops to educate women on financial issues, as well as bring them together to network and share challenges.
"There are statistics out there that show the tremendous growth of both women-owned businesses and women in business. This is a sizable opportunity," Fleming says. "Pat’s got the ties and experience that make it a natural fit."
The kickoff held in May was attended by 142 women.
The next workshop, "Planting Seeds for Your Financial Future," was held Oct. 9.
Kandziora has formed a focus group to help her identify and target the financial needs of women. The focus groups, together with the results of several surveys, have led to the identification of future workshop topics, including:
— Understanding financial statements.
— Tax secrets & importance of good record keeping.
— Networking opportunities.
— Credit issues & resolutions.
— Investments & the stock market.
— Building a business resource team.
— Access to capital – credit options.
— Women’s business certification programs.
— Managing cash flow.
— Planning for college.
— Retirement/financial planning.

"This program is important to the strategy of the company (Associated Bank)," says Baumgarten. " I will continue to be involved in whatever way I can to support Pat and provide resources."
Kandziora’s vision goes beyond the outreach need to educate women on the financial topics. It’s one that makes good business sense.
"It all goes back to building a profitable bank," she says. "Building the relationships that build a profitable women’s banking community will contribute to that end."

KeleMarie Lyons is the founder of Pinnacle XL, a management-consulting company with offices in Milwaukee and Chicago. She can be reached via e-mail at kelemarie@pinnaclexl.com.

Oct. 17, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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